* *"To start out, what I'm most pleased with about yesterday is taking care of the football offensively. We were able to create the (two) takeaways on defense, early on with Reggie (Nelson). Those are key elements. Fourth-down stops are almost like turnovers, too, because they set up field position. Those things, you have to feel good about.
"I felt good about the line of scrimmage yesterday, for the most part. There are areas to improve in and continue to work hard on. We have to do as well as we can on third down. Don't let teams off the hook on third down defensively. And, continue to convert third and short on offense as much as we can. Those things are important to help you finish off the red zone drives as well, like we had in the first half. It was a good day for us, now time to move on."
You talked about taking care of the football. One of the biggest stat lines for Andy (Dalton) this year is less interceptions. What do you think has been the biggest difference for him?
"Well, the ones he's had, all but one, probably shouldn't have gone there. You have to read it out, and don't be intent on throwing the ball to a certain player or certain time. Let the whole thing read out, let it happen, and go through your progression."
How did you guys approach working on it in the offseason? Was anything different?
"There was nothing different. Andy has always been that way, but at times a year ago, he forced the ball more than he has probably ever done in his career."
After reviewing tape from the guys on the back end that had to play due to injuries, how did everyone step up?
"We were pleased with the guys that got an opportunity to play yesterday with their roles and what they did. It's what has to happen. Guys have to fit in, and get it done."
Your four-man pressure seemed to be constant defensively. Would you agree?
"Well, I think the guys did a good job when we got into pass-rush situations. That's going to continue to be a key for this team. We have four games left, and it's key with each of these games independently, to do a good job of continually rushing the passer with four people when the opportunity comes. Convert on early downs and get them in third down and passing situations."
It was a trickle-down effect on special teams, with young guys having to step up and also some regular starters. Did everyone do well there?
"We obviously had some kickoffs to cover yesterday. I thought, again, the new guys who hadn't had an opportunity played well. Margus Hunt, C.J. Uzomah, P.J. Dawson, and Derron Smith all did a good job. They all did a nice job at coverage. The offense did a good job. We only had one punt on the day. That was good to limit exposure on the other side and not have to cover the field that way."
The players say the first goal is to win the division and protect home. Both of those are on the table this week. What's the balance there with achieving your goal, but not getting too caught up in it?
"We just have to continue to do what we've done. Put your head down and go to work. Take care of the plan as we see it, understand it, and implement it. Let's go through it and work it on Sunday. That's as simple as it can be."
Players have lived through the matchup earlier in the season. This is a week where you have to get your rest, because it's going to be a real battle Sunday, isn't it?
"We know it's a division game, and our division is physical. We just played one yesterday, and we are going to have to play another one on Sunday in order to beat the Steelers."
Jeremy (Hill) has had his two biggest yardage games the last two weeks. Is it a product of more opportunities or is he running differently?
"I think it's a combination of both. I think it's about an opportunity for him to get his shoulders pointed in the right direction. I think we're doing a good job at the point of attack. We need to continue to do that. I think, for the most part we eliminated some of the penalties that took runs away at times. I think that's one of the biggest keys. So, you probably have three elements to it."
With him having had fewer attempts early in the season, how big is the fresh leg thing during this time of the year?
"Well, I think it's obviously important. But, again, we wouldn't have wasted conversations about this stuff if he didn't have more earlier."
Do you try to deter the expression from Jeremy after a touchdown?
"It's in the NFL rules that they are allowed to celebrate after a touchdown. Just do it within the rules, which he did."
You mentioned after the game, that nine rookies had played, and that they were here for a reason, and that you evaluated them for a reason. Does that make you feel good about your process of evaluation and developing?
"Well, we feel blessed. I think the thing is, these guys have earned an opportunity. They're getting it done and doing it. We had two rookies convert third downs at the end of the football game, which was big to keep the defense from having to go back out on the field. Even though those defensive rookies probably wanted more opportunity (laughs). (A.J.) McCarron, with his snaps, was good. We got guys some playing time and exposure, which was good."
How much does the desire to play those guys, when they've earned it, play into when your sitting down and deciding who's going to come up on Sunday?
"Well, the number one goal is to win the football game and make sure we have things covered that way. Most of the decisions I make on the 46 are going to be determined by special teams, who's the back up, and who gives us more versatility that way."
How is Josh Shaw doing?
"He will be fine."
Was this a big step for Cedric Ogbuehi?
"I would imagine, from his point of view, his expectations as a player at this point last year in his senior season. Then, he gets injured, has to go through that process with the surgery and rehab. Then, the draft comes and all those things. So, I'm sure just to go back out, and have the opportunity to suit up in an NFL game was a big step for him. I'm sure it was a big relief off of him."
It is a sight to see Margus Hunt covering kickoffs. That guy is a rare bird isn't he?
"Yeah, he's got rare athleticism and speed that way. But, the key for him is he's one of the first guys in this building each and every day. He's the first guy in the special teams meetings every morning. He's intent on trying to earn an opportunity to continue to play. He did a good job yesterday."
He's has pretty good push on pass rush when he's coming off the edge. Did that look pretty good too?
"Yeah, he did a good job. Obviously, rushing the quarterback is a little different live, than just doing it in practice each day."
You mentioned yesterday, that this team coming up took the crown from you last year. I know it's a new year, but how much do you take that into this game?
"Well, it is what it is. They were the AFC north champions last year. In order to be AFC North champions, it's probably fitting that you have to beat the defending AFC North champions. We have that opportunity."